The White House's first openly transgender staffer began her new job as the Outreach and Recruitment Director in the Presidential Personnel Office today. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the former Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), is the first transgender person to work inside the White House.
In an interview with The Advocate, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett said, "Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this Administration."
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE, echoed Jarrett's excitement. "That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color is itself significant," Keisling said. "And that the first White House transgender appointee is of a friend is inspiring to me and to countless others who have been touched by Raffi's advocacy."
Freedman-Gurspan's work with NCTE has centered largely on challenges facing the most marginalized people in the trans community. She has focused on issues impacting trans people of color and those living in poverty, and has advocated for prisoners' rights, better policing, and better policies surrounding undocumented detention and violence against trans women of color.
This appointment comes two months after a highly publicized heckling incident during a Gay Pride Month celebration, during which an undocumented trans woman interrupted President Obama and demanded he address trans detentions and deportation. Many trans advocates hope the work of activists like Freedman-Gurspan encourages the Obama administration to prioritize challenges facing some of the least represented members of the LGBT community.